Here's some thinking on the robotic transportation system that's headed our way. I believe it will arrive far faster than everyone suspects.
The shift to robotic transportation is already underway. Tens of thousands of cars are self-driving already and millions more are on the way. Millions of self-flying and self-navigating drones were sold this year alone. This revolution is even reaching the industrial level. The UK is testing convoys of driverless trucks on the M3 (and in the US, Nevada has already licensed a self-driving rig for highway use in Nevada) and
Rolls Royce is working on container ships that save the 40% of the cost of crewed ships.
All of these robotic vehicles are largely disconnected or they are using their own proprietary means of networking their activity. In order for robotic transportation to explode, it will need a simple protocol for coordinating this network in a decentralized way. That's already underway, although with very little of the importance I would allocate to it given the immensity of its potential impact. It appears to be on the right track though. Early indications are that this standard will be as simple and decentralized as TCP/IP (any extraneous detail on it, will slow its implementation and utility).
Once this scalable decentralized standard is developed, it will do for air, sea, land, and undersea transportation what the Internet did for the movement of data and in about the same amount of time. The change will be rapid as billions of robotic vehicles rapidly connect to this global grid providing things like (these are consumer examples, but you can extrapolate some military applications based on them):
- Free car transportation. Order a self driving car on your cell phone, it's there in less than 5 minutes to pick you up. It will likely be free. How so? The value of selling services to the person in the vehicle is far greater than the cost of providing the service (electric self-driving fleet vehicles are very inexpensive to own/operate).
- Drone delivery. The local farmer delivers fresh eggs to you every day via drone delivery. Small package delivery via drones that pick up and deliver small packages. 5 miles in ten minutes for $0.25 a delivery. New industries explode by using this network as a platform.
- Perpetual nomads. People live in their self-driving vehicle (RV with a twist). They travel at night while sleeping, jumping from place to place to get a charge, enjoy the locale, and get supplies.
Here's a short video to get a taste for how different a robotic transportation network would feel. Although this video is a bit over the top, it's safe to say that robotic transportation will be much faster, cheaper, and safer (1/10 the fatalities). For example, with robotic vehicles nobody would have to stop at a 10x10 intersection, they could just interleave at full speed.
John Robb Twitter: @johnrobb
PS: Of course, all of this is for naught if the US isn't in the lead on setting this standard and quick to implement it nationally. If this doesn't happen. If the US lets the bureaucracies at the DMV and the FAA slow this effort down, the US will likely lose the entire robotic transportation industry to the place that does. Think about this; what would the US and the Internet look like today if the FCC had allowed the telcos to crush the early Web, and it started in China or the EU instead? How would this impact national defense? << this is something that Bob Work needs to focus on....